When Carl first saw her, she was about 11 years old, with a sweet little face and big frizzy hair. That was what he liked about her most, her hair. He had always had problems taming his hair too and imagined they would swap tips and stories about bad hair days. He was 10, very nearly 11, and since his mother had left them he had nobody he could approach about that sort of thing. His father was too angry to ask and too manly for grooming.
They both grew up, he slowly day by day, she in annual leaps from one showing to the next. Carl didn’t change for the better, growing gangly, greasy and spotty as his teenage years hit. She stayed frizzy and cute and just began to bloom, just a hint. There was never a spot on her face and Carl was hopeful for her that she would forever avoid the taunting he faced most days.
Next came the love triangle, four-cornered and impossible. Carl loved her, she loved the red-haired boy and the red-haired boy was under someone else’s spell. In time she would get her man but Carl would always be outside, wishing and dreaming about what could never be. He would probably never even meet her and if he did, she would be polite, interested and charming before moving on to the next fan in her queue.
When school was all over, the very first thing she did was shear off her long hair, opting instead for a cute pixie cut. Carl knew why she had finally made the change, now there was no reason to stay the same. He longed to overhaul his image too but on a boy like him even a buzz cut wouldn’t make much difference, for better or for worse.
For a while she idled in and out of the news pages, sometimes modelling, sometimes giving interviews about growing up in the public glare of the most famous films ever made. Carl marvelled at her strength of character, knowing he felt uncomfortable if a teacher looked at him for too long. He couldn’t imagine being that famous and he loved her even more for it.
Her new film came out and she played a very different role, her first proper character that wasn’t a child. The review said she was a triumph. Carl worried he might not like her as much as when she was his equal, even if that had been on film. She would be blossoming into a beautiful young woman and he would still be a dull nobody that never got a date or went to parties.
He decided he would steer clear of the film, leave her in his memory as she had been since they were both 10 and 11. As she moved on to the next phase of her life, Carl wasn’t yet ready to leave this one in his. Perhaps Ms Watson had taught him all she could about coping with life. They had been through 7 years together and now he would remain a wallflower without her.